Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, May 13, 2012: Willpower

Madame L wishes all the mothers across the land a very Happy Mother's Day! 

And now Madame L is going to write about something only peripherally related to mothers, related to mothers only because most mothers have at some time in their lives dieted.

Madame L hasn't finished reading the book "Willpower" yet. She checked it out of the library and then had trouble getting started with it because the very title, "Willpower," put her off just a bit. 

If it was all about what we generally call "will power," then we would have all won that diet battle, right? But authors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney explain that it isn't just that.

So, once Madame L realized that and got into the book, she had several "Aha!" moments. (But then she had to return the book to the library: it's in such high demand that she had to wait 4 weeks for it, and there's a big waiting list still.)

To cut to the chase, since all we care about is the dieting section (right?), we read that "self-control depletes the glucose in the bloodstream....The body 'knows' that it has depleted the glucose in its bloodstream by exerting self-control, and it also seems to know that sweet-tasting foods are typically the fastest way to get an infusion of energy-rich glucose." And so we eat. We can almost not help ourselves.

And so we see that many dieting methods are not only priming us not to succeed, but are essentially guaranteeing failure.

So what does work? There are lots of answers, but one that really rang a bell with Madame L was this one:

Never say never. 

Madame L first learned this concept from a tennis partner years ago. This woman had finally managed to quit smoking after many attempts, and the way she did it was by always keeping a half-pack of cigarettes in her purse, one in her car, one by her bed, one at the kitchen table, and so on. 

She said, "Whenever I get a craving, I tell myself, 'Sure, don't worry, they're right here, just wait a few minutes, okay?' And in a few minutes the craving has gone away. All those times I tried to quit by getting rid of all the cigarettes---never worked."

Same thing with diets: Depriving yourself almost inevitably results in indulging later. If you allow yourself enough energy-providing foods to keep on an even keel, if you don't let yourself feel deprived, you'll be more successful at your diet---and everything else. 

"Willpower is still evolving," the authors conclude. "Our willpower has made us the most adaptable creatures on the planet, and we're rediscovering how to help one another use it. We're learning, once again, that willpower is the virtue that sets our species apart, and that makes each one of us strong."

Madame L checked this book out of her local library, but it's available in new hardcover at for $16.06. She recommends it and may even buy it when it comes out in paperback. (Or maybe she'll exercise a little will power instead, put it on hold again and wait for it to be available again, and then read the whole thing.)

By the way, when you go to the Amazon page, check out the many other books on the subject, and if you're familiar with any of them, Madame L would love to hear what you think of it.

Happy reading!

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